In my early days of operating in Plettenberg Bay for the first time nine years ago, Lemon Grass was a small specialized restaurant inside Milkwood Manor, located close to the Lagoon. It was highly regarded in its day. Finding Equinox Restaurant closed for its holiday break when I visited the town two weeks ago, I went to Lemon Grass, and was severely disappointed!
The first connection to the restaurant is the signage and boat when one tries to find the entrance, not inspiring any confidence in what was to come. I should have turned around then. One steps into a more modern built-on dining room, the decor theme being green to match the restaurant name. I had not made a booking, and a hostess took me to the gazebo restaurant section on the beach side, which was popular for pre-dinner drinks. A waiter Don wearing a T-shirt with Graham Beck branding did me the honour of wafting by, and bringing a mega jug of ice water! When I asked him the name of the restaurant owner, he pointed at the owner at a distance, and cheekily told me to ask him!
Milkwood Manor had belonged to the late Kees Kronendijk, and the guest house probably became best known when its pool washed away in a massive flood in 2007. In 2008 the Lemon Grass restaurant section was built on to the guest house, and is run by Erich Eisenkolb, who also helps Kronendijk’s wife with the running of the guest house.
The light deteriorated fast, so I requested an inside table. Wood-topped tables have striking green placemats, a colour reflected in the T-shirts of the waitrons. Cape Herb & Spice Atlantic Sea Salt and Extra Bold Peppercorn grinders are on the table, with heavily used old but clean material napkins. The restaurant, area under the bedouin tent, and garden can seat 250 patrons in total.
The menu welcomes one, stating that their chefs have created ‘classic dishes‘ of meat, game, and seafood. As the food is freshly prepared, one is invited to ‘sit back, relax, and enjoy the exquisite view’, unfortunately not offered in the evening! One is told very specifically: ‘Please do not bring your own wine‘, as they have taken care in selecting wines for all meals and occasions! Starters include soup of the day (R49), Thai prawn soup (R59), ostrich carpaccio (R69), deep-fried Camembert (R79), snails with Parmesan crust (R89), and a selection of salads including Avocado Ritz (R49 – R79).
My eye caught calamari tubes for a main course on the menu, and I chose it with the lemon sauce option, instead of the peri-peri sauce (R109). I asked the waiter for a side of rice too, and was disappointed in myself for not having specified it as Basmati rice. The plating was unbelievably old-fashioned, the tomato topping a slice of cucumber. It was terribly sharp, and I asked the owner if chili had been added to the sauce underneath the calamari. He said it was a lemon spice which gave it the sharp taste. Erich took the dish away, and offered what I thought would be a calamari-only (i.e. sans the lemon sauce) and Basmati rice dish, but it had the same sharp sauce at the bottom of the bowl, and had sand in it too! I gave up, there clearly being a communication problem between myself, the owner, and the menu! Other main courses include salmon pasta (R89), pan-fried line fish (R109), Thai line fish (R119), Phad Thai (R119), sole (SQ), prawns (six for R132, R264 for 12), a seafood platter for one (R 229), Thai green chicken curry (R99), Cape Malay lamb curry (R139), Chalmar sirloin (R159), and kudu, ostrich, and beef fillet trio (R159).
I was planning to leave the restaurant there and then, after the disappointing calamari dish, but I had spotted Tiramisu on the menu. After the disappointing dessert I had eaten at Cornuti earlier in the week, and a rave ‘review’ of the dessert by waiter Don, I took the risk of ordering it! I should have listened to my intuition, the Tiramisu being dry, with no mascarpone, and the chocolate sauce squiggle plating old-fashioned. All desserts are charged at R59, and include predictable ones such as créme brûlée, baked cheese cake, and fried banana spring rolls.
I looked at the wine list, the tan leather cover being branded with Graham Beck, and the first two pages of the wine list is dedicated to Graham Beck The Game Reserve. Each page is held in a plastic pocket. Moët et Chandon is the only champagne, and one has to ask for the price (R899). Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc sparkling wine is available by the glass, at R49, and per bottle at R199. Other sparkling wines are Graham Beck Brut (R259) and Boplaas Pinot Noir (R159). White wines by the glass range from R32 – R42 (and include Ken Forrester Chenin Blanc and Graham Beck Gorgeous Blush Rose), while red wines by the glass cost R35 – R49, for Klein Constantia, and Graham Beck Game Reserve. No vintages are specified.
Waiter Don started taking some interest in my note-taking, but clearly did not care too much, probably not knowing what a blog is. I asked him for the bill, and he felt he should rather clear the dishes from my table, and serve some other customers first. A colleague brought the credit card machine to my table! On my way out I was called by Facebook friend Gerd Müller-Hipper, whom I had not met previously, who had taken a tour group of German guests for dinner to Lemon Grass.
POSTSCRIPT 16/2: A comment was received to this Review in the name of the Restaurant Manager, largely professional in its content, until the PS at the end, when the writer Leon tries to discredit my credentials as a reviewer, which has been removed!
Lemon Grass Seaside Restaurant, Milkwood Manor on Sea, Salmack Road,Plettenberg Bay. Tel (044) 533-5520. www.milkwoodmanor.co.za Monday – Sunday Lunch and Dinner.
Chris von Ulmenstein, WhaleTales Blog: www.whalecottage.com/blog Tel 082 55 11 323 Twitter:@WhaleCottage Facebook: click here